Around the house, today …
**The phone has rung about 16 times today for one child or another. The busy social lives of the ten-and-under crowd. CJ wanted in on the action and has been looking for a friend to come over. Problem is, he’s three and so are his friends; so far we’ve struck out. “Would you be scared to go by yourself to [friend’s name] house?” “Yes.” “Well, he probably feels the same way.” “But he’s not scared at nursery school.”
**I can’t go for my long run due to injury (see my triathlon blog for the painful details). In fact, I can’t even go for a short run just to blow off steam. This has made for a jumpy grumpy woman. Alternatives? What would you do if you couldn’t run? Running has become such a huge part of my life, a major tool in my mental health kit; it isn’t easy to replace, even temporarily. I’m planning to hit a yoga class this afternoon. But yoga lacks the adventure of running. Yoga happens indoors, as does swimming and spinning. Running outside in all weathers has changed my experience of the outdoor world and made winter a friendly place, for me.
**I am baking bread, doing laundry, picking up toys, and vacuuming. None of these activities are helping with my restlessness.
**It’s a beautiful, cold, sunny winter’s day. I am trying to convince my two youngest to go outside and build something in the snow. Hey — looks like the promise of hot chocolate afterward did the trick!
**While vacuuming I finally swept up all of the white feathers on AppleApple’s floor. When questioned about the provenance of the feathers, she posited that they were coming from her duvet. So I checked. And discovered a hole that had been patched with a scrap of cloth and pink thread. The child had attempted to fix the problem herself! Without ever mentioning it to me! I felt both proud and dismayed. What else is she attempting to fix by herself, without telling me? I had to rip out the stitches and sew the torn cloth together; no patch job was going to fix the problem. Oh dear, I am seeing nothing but metaphor.
**Speaking of metaphor, my poetry book club meets tonight. And now I can’t even find the book. Last seen a week ago at soccer practice where, unable to go for my usual run, I was attempting to read and take notes by the side of the field; and failing pretty miserably. It all circles back to the running!
**Finally, if you haven’t signed up for The New Quarterly giveaway, please consider it. My goal right now is to get at least ten people’s names in the hat.
Oh man, I look nervous. This is a totally unconvincing smile. You can see it in my eyes: Do I really want to do this?
Someone stop me, please.
Hours later, only 200m left to go. Fooey removes lollipop to cheer her mother’s approach. Her mother is feeling, oh, a million bajillion times better than she did in the previous picture.
There I go down the homestretch. A huge feeling of wow. Forty-two point two kilometres completed. Time on the clock: 3:42:13.
“I still can’t believe you ran a marathon today, Mom.” – AppleApple
Yeah. Me neither, kid.
(For the completely and totally unabridged version, please visit my triathlon training blog.)
Yesterday morning, I was at a race, all by myself. Kevin was working. The kids were home with a babysitter, and we’d arranged carpooling for AppleApple to get to her soccer tryout. It was so cold. This is me after the race with the medal around my neck.
A nice touch, I must say, though it was earned merely for completion. The race was a 25km trail run, and oddly, it was held at a place filled with happy summer memories, for me: a conservation area not far from the farm my family lived on when I was a young teenager. We had a season’s pass and came swimming all the time, windows down, watermelon packed into trunk; me with permed hair and a black and white bikini and painful adolescent self-consciousness. The start line was at the beach. I was having flashbacks. To read about the race in detail, visit my triathlon blog. For results, check here.
Because of what I did yesterday morning, this is what we did yesterday evening. Kevin was in Toronto at a Toronto-FC game. The kids and I planned a pizza party. We ate every scrap of pizza, the kids got to drink pop, and we vegged on the couch and watched two movies, with a brief intermission in between for tooth brushing and putting on pajamas. I could scarcely keep my eyes open during the last movie. We all went to bed immediately afterward.
I’d say it was a really really good day. Really good. A keeper.
So, I’m out for a run, doing my best to keep my pace up a long steep climb, when a car slows beside me. An elderly man rolls down his window, leans across the front seat and with great enthusiasm calls out: “Congratulations!”
That’s never happened before.
There’s a post I wrote awhile ago, a year and a half ago, to be precise, to which I keep returning. (Read it yourself, here, if you’d like).
The question I was asking then (and which I continue to ask) boils down to what kind of life I’m seeking to live: is it a life with unexpected twists and turns and seemingly disconnected variety, or a life of intense and singular highly focussed work; or is there perhaps a third way, a way in between those two extremes?
A year and a half after articulating that question, I can’t say an answer has appeared. Has life, as it’s been lived since then, spoken? Not in any expected way. Not loudly. Not directly. But also, have I been listening to the universe in the same way? Expecting it to reply? I have not. And I’m not sure why.
Instead, I’ve been running.
Is that a metaphor? Have I been running away? Or toward? Or is running a question and answer contained in itself? This morning, I woke up a bit later than usual, but realized that without a run, my day would be consumed by negative energy, and that I needed to run as far and as fast as I could in the time available, in order to burn that energy off.
Where is this negative energy coming from? It manifests itself in a general grumpiness, irritability, sometimes in a muddled mind, or I get lost in thought. Not practical, useful thought, but distant drifting foggy thought in which I cannot find my way. There is something about running (or biking or swimming or any exercise that gets me working physically) that burns off the fog, that releases me, even if only briefly, into a happy state. Afterward, I feel productive. Alive. It’s like an energy exchange: bad for good.
What will you do with your life?
My youngest starts school in a year. A year, therefore, is my self-imposed deadline. Deadline for what? For direction. For the universe to point me wherever I’m meant to be going, or for me to point myself, to step off, to launch, to turn around, to choose. I type that as if it were absolute, as if I might choose the wrong path, as if there is a right path and a wrong path; and there’s not. I believe many paths could be right. Success (happiness? contentment?) is dependent on how I walk the one(s) I choose. Nevertheless. My youngest entering school carries the pressure of a deadline. I’m at an age when it feels like, to paraphrase a character in The Juliet Stories, I’m holding in my hands a diminishing collection of possibilities.
So. I have a year to figure this out. I don’t know about you, but a year doesn’t feel as long as it once did. Turn your head, laugh, and it’s vanished.
This week has been a long and fuzzy one. And yet it’s actually been quite short. We got home on Monday, late afternoon. I spent the evening in a state of intense irritation roasting and freezing a bushel of red peppers. (“Stay out of the kitchen. I’m sorry. I’m just really irritable right now.” “Yeah, I already know that, Mom.”)
The following morning, I took the kids to Vacation Bible School. Total flop. One day was more than enough and I did not send them back again. Albus’s first question, when I picked them up: “Mom, what are sins?” Warning bells ringing loudly. Apparently, the language was heavily weighted toward sin and enemies and the devil and death angels (no joke). I have a fairly high tolerance for religious language, but no. Just, no. I can’t abide the belief that we are born full of sin, fallen. I believe we’re born human, and we will all make mistakes, and we won’t always be right. But we’re not stained by our mistakes; what a terrible and debilitating concept. What a staggering lack of compassion, to see our errors and the errors of others as sinful. Mistakes are inevitable, and come with great potential. We learn by them. We learn pain. We learn to forgive. We learn compassion. We learn critical thinking. We learn to say sorry (and to feel it). We are strengthened by discovery, and discovery comes through trial and error.
So, long story short, no “free” babysitting this week.
I spent all of Tuesday canning a bushel of tomatoes. The kids had to entertain themselves for the afternoon. Albus was helpful, AppleApple, too. Summer has had the effect of bringing the siblings closer together. That’s a beautiful thing.
Wednesday was a scheduling day. My babysitter is back from Germany and we reunited that afternoon, but I hardly got any writing work done. It was all about the fall schedule, an intricate piecing together of interests and activities. I should have gone for a run afterward.
By yesterday, I felt fuzzy-headed and exhausted. But blueberry season is almost over, and there is an organic patch that friends have been raving about all month. We had to go. It looked like rain, and then it did rain, and then it cleared again. And the blueberry bushes did not disappoint, absolutely laden with fruit. We picked 14 pounds without really trying. More fruit to add to the freezer, and AppleApple and I made blueberry “hand-pies,” which ended up being too sticky to eat by hand.
But despite this positive and happy activity, I had a moment of panic late yesterday afternoon. I’m having a breakdown, I thought. Why? Because I was paralyzed by the thought of supper. Something had to be made, and quickly, because AppleApple had soccer practice; and my brain stuttered to a halt. Pasta plus rice plus potatoes? Is that really what I had on hand? Thankfully, I recovered, retrieved hamburger from the freezer, made a rice/hamburger/zucchini mash-up, boiled potatoes and grilled them along with eggplant, and boiled a pot of sweet corn. All’s well that ends well.
While standing in the kitchen paralyzed, it came to me: I need to exercise. I need to run. I need to stretch. I need alone time. Daily. This week, I’ve been so busy preparing for winter (canning and freezing), and planning for fall, that I forgot about today. It’s not about training for a triathlon; it’s about a daily practice of restoring and maintaining sanity, and peace.